PMRA Decision-Making Advice Balance of Power for Workers Exploited in Liquor Retail

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The Labor Inspectorate, part of the Ministry of Enterprise, Innovation and Employment, welcomes the decision of the Alcohol Regulatory and Licensing Authority (ARLA) to cancel the liquor licenses for five Canterbury liquor stores owned by Nekita Enterprises Limited, and the manager’s certificate of Shereen Singh, following exploitation discovered by the Labor Inspectorate.

In December 2020, the Employment Relations Authority (ERA) ordered Nekita Enterprises and Director Harjit Singh to pay a combined total of $ 125,000 in penalties for using a double pay system to avoid paying four employees. minimum wage for all hours worked and not keeping accurate employment records for 59 employees. The case was brought before the ERA by the Labor Inspectorate, following complaints from employees.

The penalties were in addition to the $ 21,390 that Nekita Enterprises had already paid these four former employees for minimum wage and overdue paid vacation.

Loua Ward, responsible for retail sector strategy at the Labor Inspectorate, said: “It is unacceptable that some employers continually and intentionally violate labor law, violating employee rights and undermining employment. other companies. Bad treatment of workers should not provide a competitive advantage in any industry. “

The PMRA found that Nekita’s labor law violations amounted to improper conduct and ruled that the company was not fit to hold a liquor license.

Director Harjit Singh, who was found by the PMRA as “Nekita’s guiding spirit and will,” had returned his managerial certificate earlier. However, the PMRA noted that if Mr. Singh had not returned his director’s certificate, it would have been revoked. His wife and business partner Shereen Singh also had his director’s certificate revoked by the PMRA.

“This PMRA decision has shifted the balance of power, as exploiters are now at risk of being completely retired. The move sends a clear message that companies that exploit their workers can lose their licenses. We encourage employees of liquor stores that have been operated by unscrupulous employers to come forward and seek advice from the Labor Inspectorate, ”Ms. Ward said.

Immigration New Zealand takes a pragmatic approach to migrants who lose their jobs while they have a work visa attached to their job and will work with them on a case-by-case basis to ensure that they can stay legally in New Zealand while they are still working in New Zealand. ‘they make alternative arrangements.

Ms Ward said: “The Labor Inspectorate has engaged with a group of leaders in retail and alcohol supply including Liquorland, Super Liquor, The Bottle-O, DB, Lion and Asahi , to share ideas and information about the exploitation of workers in the sector, and how to work collectively and individually to solve this problem.

“It is encouraging to see industry leaders taking a stand against exploitation and taking proactive steps to improve labor compliance. For example, Super Liquor left its branded stores run by Nekita Enterprises and took steps to better monitor compliance within its franchise network.

“The majority of New Zealand employers want to do the right thing. It is particularly important to ensure a level playing field for the recovery of the labor market after the effects of COVID-19. “

The Labor Inspectorate encourages anyone concerned about their employment situation or the situation of someone they know to contact the Employment Service Center in New Zealand where issues are handled in a safe environment.

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